August 22, 2009

Drinking Alcohol Leads To Higher Cancer Risk

A new study suggests that men who drink beer or liquor on a regular basis may face a heightened risk of several different types of cancers.

Researchers discovered that about 3,600 Canadian men between the ages 35 to 70 that drank at least one alcoholic drink a day had higher risks of a number of cancers than men who drank occasionally or not at all, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate.

Once the researchers looked at the individual types of alcohol, only beer and spirits, not wine, were linked to elevated cancer risk.

According to the findings published in the Cancer Prevention and Detection, the odds increased in tandem with the men's lifetime alcohol intake.

Men that drank at least once per day tended to have a higher risk compared to those who drank on a regular, but less-than-daily, basis.

Men who drank one to six times per week had an 83 percent higher risk than teetotalers and less-frequent drinkers when it came to esophageal cancer.  However, daily drinkers had a three-fold higher risk.

Also, when the researchers looked only at daily drinkers, the risks generally increased with the number of years that men had been at it.

"Our results show that the heaviest consumers over the lifetime had the biggest increases in the risks of multiple sites of cancer," lead researcher Dr. Andrea Benedetti, of McGill University in Montreal, told Reuters Health in an email.

Many studies have said that moderate drinking can be a healthy habit, particularly when it comes to heart disease.  Moderate drinking is usually defined as no more than a drink or two a day.

However, the current study suggests that even moderate drinking levels are linked to higher risks of certain cancers, at least when the alcohol of choice is beer or liquor.

According to Benedetti, the question on whether moderate drinkers should cut down cannot be answered by a single study.

"In terms of balancing this risk (of cancer) with risks of cardiovascular disease," she said, "people should talk with their doctor."


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